HM hosts Maine's first apprentice conference
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Posted by: Kathleen Pierce
FAIRFIELD, MAINE — It’s been available for 80 years. Yet only recently has Maine’s registered apprenticeship program gained traction as a potent workforce resource for industries strapped for employees.
Last week, 80 educators, employers and government and nonprofit agencies gathered in an all-day work session to breathe new life into this career training program to strengthen one of Maine’s key workforce solutions.
“The first ever convening of partners laid a strong foundation for growing access to 'earn while you learn' opportunities across all business sectors,” said Terry Hayes, HospitalityMaine’s director of workforce development, who helped organize the state's first apprenticeship conference. “Together we can minimize barriers and celebrate successes in order to provide more opportunities for Mainers to learn a skill or craft on the job.”
Hosted by the state’s non-profit hospitality trade group, the Maine Department of Labor and Maine Community College System, the symposium held at Kennebec Valley Community College addressed the needs, obstacles and outcomes all industries face to maintain a robust, state-backed training program.
From apple orchards, to banks, to healthcare, to hospitality, industry representatives gathered forces as important positions across all sectors go unfilled.
“A lot of us have been working in silos,” said Kevin Michaud superintendent of Waldo County Technical Center during a session break. “I get calls all the time from employers in Waldo County. From this point forward we will gain some traction. The timing is right. It’s overdue.”
Maine apprenticeships have expanded by 40 percent in last two years, said Joan Dolan, Maine Department of Labor’s apprenticeship director. But this is the first time key partners have met to move it forward. "It's important to unite everyone to be a team," said Dolan, who needs more sponsors like HospitalityMaine and the Associated General Contractors of Maine to step up as hosts. “HospitalityMaine is the largest association doing the most effective job promoting apprentices for a non-union organization” said Dolan.
HospitalityMaine’s culinary and lodging apprentice program launched this past spring. Right now 40 members have signed up to host apprentices.
“The number one challenge is staffing. Workforce. People,” said HospitalityMaine’s CEO Steve Hewins. “We have to find a way to simplify the process so more people will take advantage of this.”